To nobody’s very great surprise, Donald Trump today decided he will not moderate the Newsmax presidential debate between Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum, after all. He was dismissive of the regrets of Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman, understanding of the rationale for refusing offered by Mitt Romney and Rick Perry, and mighty disappointed with Michele Bachmann, but, today, he was just matter-of-fact. Oops, did I say “matter-of-fact”? I meant characteristically “over-the-top.”

In a statement laced with intimations, insinuations and outright admissions that he might want to rock the presidential race as an independent, Trump said he will bow out of moderating the debate. His full statement, via Alexander Burns at Politico:

The Republican Party candidates are very concerned that sometime after the final episode of The Apprentice, on May 20th, when the equal time provisions are no longer applicable to me, I will announce my candidacy for President of the United States as an Independent and that, unless I conclusively agree not to run as an Independent, they will not agree to attend or be a part of the Newsmax debate scheduled for December 27, 2011. It is very important to me that the right Republican candidate be chosen to defeat the failed and very destructive Obama Administration, but if that Republican, in my opinion, is not the right candidate, I am not willing to give up my right to run as an Independent candidate. Therefore, so that there is no conflict of interest within the Republican Party, I have decided not to be the moderator of the Newsmax debate. The American people are embarrassed by the gridlock currently taking place in Washington. I must leave all of my options open because, above all else, we must make America great again!

I would like to thank Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum for having the courage, conviction, and confidence to immediately accept being a part of the Newsmax debate. I believe this would not only have been the most watched debate, but also the most substantive and interesting debate!

As Burns noted, “gotta love that the date of ‘The Apprentice’ season finale ended up in there.”

As this means Allahpundit won’t cease to cover the 2012 elections after all — as he threatened to do on Twitter the day the news of the Trump-moderated debate broke — I’m relieved the Donald has relinquished his show-stopping role as a debate moderator.

But I’m also a little perturbed that, by refusing to participate in the debate and forcing Trump to this conclusion, the Republican candidates have effectively resurrected the menace of an independent run by Trump. I don’t really think he will, but, if he did decide to run as an independent, I would never forgive him. A reminder: Anybody who says his or her top priority is to ensure that Obama becomes a one-term president would not enter the race as an independent only to split the anti-Obama vote. Please, people, don’t forget that.

Now, however, if a leftie wants to run to split the pro-Obama vote, I’m all for that.